People around a table
Photograph: Supplied/Welcome Merchant

Refugee-run businesses to support in Sydney

Make a tangible impact by buying from one of these local outfits


It's not easy being an entrepreneur, but it's a damn sight harder starting up a business in an unfamiliar country as a recently arrived refugee. One tangible way that you, as a consumer, can do your bit for those who have sought refuge in Australia is by spending your money with refugee-run businesses. 

Not only does it help another independent business flourish in our fair city, but it puts the power into the hands of refugee creators and workers. With a little help from Welcome Merchant, a platform that lifts up refugee-owned and operated businesses, we've compiled a guide to refugee-run outfits you can eat, drink and shop with in Sydney. 

Recommended: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-owned beauty brands to buy from now.

Krishna, owner of Bavan Foods, was working as a personal assistant to a government minister in the east of Sri Lanka when his employer spotted his culinary talent. He left his job to pursue his passion for cooking, which led him to open a restaurant in Colombo. When he relocated to Australia, he opened Bavan Foods, specialising in North and South Indian cuisine, and particularly, his much-loved roti Chennai. 


While it isn’t technically in Sydney, Ethiopian Cuisine Wollongong is worth a jaunt down south. When Sara Taddesse moved to the seaside town, she noticed there was nowhere to get injera. Or any other Ethiopian food, for that matter. After putting her friends through taste-testing after testing (what a slog), Sara opened her own business which caters and operates at market stalls around Wollongong. 

A jewellery brand founded by Nigerian-born Bilikis Gbadamosi, Billiano Designs is a Sydney-based brand which draws on its founder’s cultural heritage to make ready-to-wear and custom jewellery out of beads, wire, gemstones and more. You can get her creations online – or at Newtown boutique the Social Outfit


Scroll through this Sydney-based jewellery label’s website for trinkets and sculptural jewellery crafted from wire, brass and set with stones. Owner Nadia Obeid, who came to Sydney from Syria, draws from Damascan art and history to make choker-style chains with intricate pendants, earrings with opaque burgundy gems and more. It’s also affordable – prices start at $15, and you can get free shipping all around Australia. 

Time to tuck a paintbrush behind your ear and explore your creative side. Set in a workshop in Wentworthville, the Ati Art School and Centre uses all kinds of tools in its visual art teaching: from watercolours, to charcoal, to acrylic and more. It's run by Atefeh Hekmat, who was a painter in Tehran before she left to see asylum in Austalia. Sign up for classes here


Welcome to the future

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